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This paper is giving an analysis of the interesting thesis proposed by Alicia M. Canto in 1987 of a first foundation of Augusta Emerita as a Julius Caesar’s military praesidium, followed by a re-foundation in 25 BC by Titus Publius Carisius, legate of Augustus. Our discussion of the first foundation will be based on the astronomical orientation of the town. In a previous paper, we have shown that the decumanus of Augusta Emerita is aligned close to the northern moonrise azimuth on a major lunar standstill. Being 25 BC close to 24 BC, a year of major lunar standstill, we concluded a deliberate astronomical alignment of the decumanus. But Canto is proposing a previous foundation of the town as a castrum; the range of time she gives for the foundation of the Caesar’s military settlement, 48 BC - 44 BC, has the end (44 BC) close to a major lunar standstill (43 BC). This means that the astronomical alignment observed of Mérida could be that of the Caesar’s settlement too.
A Discussion on a First Foundation of Augusta Emerita as a Military Praesidium
Amelia Carolina Sparavigna
Politecnico di Torino
Abstract: This paper is giving an analysis of the interesting thesis proposed by Alicia M. Canto in 1987 of a first foundation of Augusta Emerita as a Julius Caesar’s military praesidium, followed by a re-foundation in 25 BC by Titus Publius Carisius, legate of Augustus. Our discussion of the first foundation will be based on the astronomical orientation of the town. In a previous paper, we have shown that the decumanus of Augusta Emerita is aligned close to the northern moonrise azimuth on a major lunar standstill. Being 25 BC close to 24 BC, a year of major lunar standstill, we concluded a deliberate astronomical alignment of the decumanus. But Canto is proposing a previous foundation of the town as a castrum; the range of time she gives for the foundation of the Caesar’s military settlement, 48 BC - 44 BC, has the end (44 BC) close to a major lunar standstill (43 BC). This means that the astronomical alignment observed of Mérida could be that of the Caesar’s settlement too.
In a recent paper , we have discussed the astronomical orientation of Augusta Emerita, today Mérida, in Spain. If we have an astronomical orientation, we find that the main axis of the settlement is oriented to the rising (or setting) of an astronomical object, such as the sun, the moon or some brilliant stars. In the case of Augusta Emerita, we showed that the decumanus of the town is oriented to the northern possible direction of moonrise on a year close to 24 BC, a year of major lunar standstill. In fact, in , we assumed the foundation of this town on 25 BC, as given in . Using a modern Ephemeris - the Photographer's Ephemeris – and the CalSky (http://www.calsky.com/cs.cgi), a web based astronomical calculator used by astronomers, we evidenced that the northern moonrise azimuth of 25 BC is almost the same of 24 BC, a year that had a major lunar standstill.
However, in , the author Alicia M. Canto is telling that the town had three foundations. Reference  is proposing that Merida passed through three founding processes, the oldest one being that due to Julius Caesar, who created a military praesidium there. A second foundation was that made by Publio Carisio around the years 25-21 BC, and a third around 16-15 AC, after the complete pacification of Spain, by Agrippa, representing Augustus. In , Canto is stressing that she is showing, for the first time, that similar phenomena occurred in other cities in Spain, such as Cordoba, in which the roles of "new founders" had been played by Marcellus, nephew of Augusto, and Germanicus.
In particular, for Augusta Emerita, we read that the author considers that "existen al menos diez u once argumentos para pensar que en el lugar de Mérida, Julio César pudo establecer un praesidium militar, del tipo de Scallabis o Pax Iulia, quizá entre los años 48 y 44 a.C., al mismo tiempo que, en la zona pacificada del S. del Guadiana, establecía varios municipios c.R., los betúricos, en un área claramente cesariana. La tribu elegida sería la Papiria, usada por él en otras de sus fundaciones. … Sobre este núcleo romanizador inicial, y siguiendo, como en otras muchas cosas, la planificación de su padre, Octavio, terminadas aparentemente las campañas cántabras, encarga a P. Carisio, en torno al año 25-21 a.C., una fundación colonial no inmune en Mérida, en la que se asentarían, al menos, veteranos de la legión XX y quizá otros de las legiones que habían luchado con César en las guerras civiles, y que habían sido nuevamente enrolados para esta ocasión" . That is, there are at least ten or eleven evidences to believe that, at Mérida, Julius Caesar could have established a military praesidium, like those of Scallabis or Pax Iulia, perhaps between 48 and 44 BC, at the same time that, in the area pacified S. of Guadiana, established several municipalities in a region that was under his evident control. The tribe was probably the Papiria, that he used in other foundations. … Over this initial Romanized core and, as in many other things, following the plans of his father, Octavian, after the end of the Cantabrian campaigns, ordered around the year 25-21 BC Carisius of the colonial foundation in Mérida, to settle down the veterans of the XX legion and perhaps others veterans from legions who had fought for Caesar in the civil wars, and then enrolled for this last war. The site of the settlement was not new but on a previous Roman settlement.
Therefore, according to Canto, Mérida had three foundations. The date of 25 BC is coincident to the second foundation of Mérida, so we can ask ourselves if this re-foundation changed the orientation of Augusta Emerita, with respect to that of the Caesar's military castrum. In , we find a time interval between 48 BC and 44 BC. Let us investigate if, in this time interval, we have a major lunar standstill. Using CalSky, as in , we have that for the year 45 BC, the maximum declination was of 27°44’; for the year 44 BC, it was of 28°30’ and, for 43 BC, the maximum declination of the moon was 28°55’ degrees. So 43 BC was a year of major lunar standstill. Again, we find that, an end of the interval of time supposed for Caesar's foundation, that is year 44 BC, is close to the year (43 BC) of major lunar standstill. It is then possible that the astronomical orientation of Merida was that of the Caesar's castrum, maintained by the second foundation, in 25 BC.
There is a fact to note about the year 44 BC. On the Ides of March (March 15) of that year, Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in Rome. So it could seem questionable a foundation by him of a castrum. However, in this first part of 44 BC, Julius Caesar founded an important building, the Curia Julia, in the Forum of Rome as the new house of the Roman Senate. This building is oriented along the northern possible moonrise azimuth of 44 BC . It is therefore possible that Julius Caesar ordered a legate to found the castrum of Mérida in Spain, having this specific orientation, an astronomical orientation based on the northern azimuth of moonrise. As told in  for the Curia Julia, the coincidence of the date of the foundation (44 BC) to a period of major lunar standstill reinforces the possibility that an astronomical orientation was deliberately planned in the settlement layout.
Let us consider also the third foundation of Augusta Emerita, that of 16 BC or 15 BC . Of course, these cannot be years of major lunar standstill, being the cycle of the moon of about 18,5 - 19 years. Marcellus, having a planned and built town, could not modify the orientation of the decumanus. Then, the re-foundation was probably a ceremony during which the area of the town was re-consecrated by a legate of the emperor. It is also possible that it was the same for the second foundation, and that Carisius had maintained the original direction of the decumanus of the Caesar's castrum. Let us stress that the foundation and limitation of a Roman settlement, a town or a military castrum, had a specific ritual during which the direction of the decumanus, the main street, and the perimeter of the pomerium, the religious boundary around the city, were established. Therefore, in the case that a previous Roman orientation and limitation of a town existed, it is difficult to imagine that a Roman could change them.
Also in the case of Torino, Julia Augusta Taurinorum, we had a foundation as a Caesar's castrum and then a re-foundation by Augustus. About such a process, in which we have a foundation by Caesar and re-foundation by Augustus, Carlo Promis told the following  "il parere tenuto in casi analoghi dai moderni storici ed epigrafisti e soprattutto dal Borghesi; i quali pensarono che le colonie dette Juliae Augustae dovessero questa loro duplice denominazione all’essere state essenzialmente dedotte due volte, prima da Cesare e poi da Augusto, qualunque talvolta fossero così dette da Augusto solo”. In , we proposed that, for Torino, the original orientation of the Caesar's castrum was maintained in the re-foundation by Augustus. Let us conclude noting that also in the planning of Torino we can find alignments along the moonrise on major and minor standstills .
 Sparavigna, A. C. (2016). Augusta Emerita and the Major Lunar Standstill of 24 BC (July 10, 2016). PHILICA Article Number 635. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2807544
 Iglesias, L. G. (1976). Augusta Emerita. In the Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites. Stillwell, Richard. MacDonald, William L. McAlister, Marian Holland. Princeton, N.J. Princeton University Press.
 Canto, A. M. (1990). Las tres fundaciones de Augusta Emerita. In Stadtbild und Ideologie. Die Monumentalisierung hispanischer Städte zwischen Republik und Kaiserzeit (Kolloquium in Madrid vom 19. bis 23. Oktober, 1987), edd. W. Trillmich y P. Zanker, Bayerische Akademie der Wiss. Phil.-Historische Klasse, Abhandlung 103, Munich, 1990, 289-297.
 Sparavigna, A. C. (2016). A Possible Astronomical Orientation of the Curia Julia in the Forum of Rome (July 19, 2016). PHILICA Article number 639. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2811625
 Promis, C. (1869). Storia dell'antica Torino, Julia Augusta Taurinorum: scritta sulla fede de' vetusti autori e delle sue iscrizioni e mura, 1869, Torino, stamperia Reale, 1969, Edilibri, Andrea Viglongo & C Editori, Torino.
 Sparavigna, A. C. (2012). Carlo Promis e l'antica Torino. Available at http://porto.polito.it/2501655/1/Carlo_Promis_e_antica_Torino.pdf
 Sparavigna, A. C. (2016). The Orientation of a Street of Turin along the Major Southern Moonrise Direction (May 14, 2016). SSRN Electronic Journal, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2779906
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Sparavigna, A. (2016). A Discussion on a First Foundation of Augusta Emerita as a Military Praesidium. PHILICA.COM Article number 652.